The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in Mozambique (MASA) is to grant 102 thousand square kilometers of fertile land (more than 10 million hectares of land) to the private Consortium ProSavana, an agriculture project of the governments of Mozambique, Brazil and Japan. Activists of civil society organizations and in particular, farmers associations, oppose the programme.
ProSavana requires millions of hectares of land along the Nacala Corridor, when the local reality shows that such vast areas of land are not available and are currently used by peasants practicing shifting cultivation. The populations of the provinces of Zambezia, Niassa and Nampula would be the first to suffer the impact of such a programme. The peasants also criticise the lack of protections of their rights over their lands, noting that ProSavana is only concerned with protecting the rights of large-scale producers.
ProSavana is presented as a development/aid programme by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security of Mozambique. The project according to the government will increase productivity, ensure access to markets, use natural resources in a sustainable manner and strengthen the business skills of farmers. The Mozambican government also categorically denied that any Mozambicans would lose land because of the Pro-Savana agricultural development programme.
No to ProSavana
On April 20-29, 2015 Mozambique’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security organized public debates over the ProSavana development programme. These so-called public hearing sessions came as a response from the governments of Mozambique, Brazil and Japan to criticism and sovereign demands of Nacala Corridor communities, civil society organizations and peasant movements who say ‘no’ to ProSavana and have demanded, since 2012, that the definition of agricultural development priorities in the country be made through the establishment of a democratic, transparent and inclusive dialogue.
Basically, the Government of Mozambique gave nine days’ time to discuss a project that involves a population of more than four million Mozambicans; a project that, if implemented, is very likely to violate basic human rights such as the right to land, food, and life. Peasants, members of communities in the Nacala Corridor, civil society and religious-based organizations, despite the very serious barriers imposed on them by the organizers, took part and observed almost all meetings. They stated that the public hearing process was “insufficient, incomplete, partial and propagandist”. They also asked tat the ProSavana project be debated and if necessary reviewed by the Assembly of the Republic”.
The Archdiocesan Commission for Justice and Peace in Nampula and the Academic Action for the Development of Rural Communities (ADECRU), not only informed that the peasants rejected the implementation of the ProSavana progamme, but denounced that some sessions, such as the ones held in Mutuali, District Malema, were followed by the persecution, oppression and intimidation of representatives of local peasant organizations, who raised concerns regarding ProSavana. On 11 May, peasants, civil society organizations and social and environmental movements demanded the immediate invalidation of the public consultations or hearings held between the 20th and the 29th of April in the provinces of Nampula, Niassa and Zambezia. Last 4 June, at least 67 civil society organizations and social and environmental movements mostly from Mozambique, Brazil and Japan held demonstrations against ProSavana, and released a joint statement appealing for an immediate invalidation of the ‘Public Hearing of ProSavana’s Master Plan’.
The request of invalidation is based on the violations of constitutional principles, the omission of the juridical and legal basis of the ‘public hearing’, but most of all on the intimidation and oppression environment set by the presence of armed security forces and threat and persecution of peasants who expressed doubts and concerns regarding ProSavana. “All public hearing sessions over the agribusiness Pro Savana”, they denounced, “were organized just to give an illusionary impression of acting democratically”.
Agrarian reform greatly needed
Mozambique needs an agrarian reform in order to develop the agro-livestock of the country and to combat the deep poverty which affects the majority of the population, but it is obvious that projects such as ProSavana, or the development project of the river Lúrio valley (DVRL), still in the Nacala Corridor, which is about to be approved by the Council of Ministers of Mozqmbique, are not the right solutions.
Farmers and civil society organizations fight against the sale of fertile land to private companies or to foreigners. If Mozambique loses its own land, it would experience once again a sort of colonialism, since it would become dependent on imports of food. Instead of selling land to foreigners, some public-private alternatives could be developed. Agricultural projects could be managed and controlled by organizations of the tertiary sector, such as the National Union of Peasants (UNAC), for instance, or by the same peasants of the local communities, or also by the Mozambican universities. Agricultural projects, in Mozambique, can only succeed if implemented after public consultation. Peasants should be free to express their opinion, and their proposals should be taken into serious and significant consideration. They should be in charge of the projects they submit and responsible for their success or failure.
Arlindo Ferreira Pinto